Why Do Most Countries Including the US Drive on the Right?
A thorough research on the internet says that almost two-thirds to three-quarters of the world drive on the right, while only one third to a quarter of the world drive on the left. Also it is mostly the British colonies that drive on the left. This can be quite surprising, but they have valid reasons as to why they drive on the left.
I got these statistics off the internet!
- 66.1% of the world’s people live in right-hand traffic countries
- 33.9% of the world’s people live in left-hand traffic countries
- 72% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the right
- 28% of the world’s road distance carries traffic on the left
Why Do We Drive On The Right in the U.S?
During early days, almost everybody travelled on the left side of the road. People found it easier and correct because of the way the societies were then, wars, violence. A vast majority of the people are and were right handed. Swordsmen always preferred to keep to the left so that they could use their right arm to defend themselves from the opponent and they can wear the sheath for a sword or dagger or bayonet also called the scabbard, on their left arm, so that it does not hit other people they pass by. It was also easier for them to mount the horses from the left rather than from the right, that way they had to ride the horses on the left hand side of the road.
Later on the in the late 1700s, France and US started using wagons to transport farm products. The wagons were driven by several horses. In order to keep control of the team, the driver sat on the horse which was to the left rear side of the group, so he could use his right arm to handle the group. In order for him to keep an eye on the road and maintain the position on the road for oncoming vehicles, the wagons had to be driven on the right hand side of the road. Also according to history, the French revolution that took place in 1789 had a huge impact on right hand driving in Europe (aristocrats driving on the left wanted to be in level with the pheasants who were driving on the right) and in 1794, right hand driving was made a rule in Paris and a year before that in 1793 in Denmark too.
Britain however did not follow right hand driving, and in 1835 left hand driving was made mandatory in Britain. Also countries that were part of the British empire follow left hand driving, which includes India, Australasia and the former British colonies in Africa (Egypt is an exception).
Japan, which was not part of the British Empire also drives on the left, for reasons dating back to the Edo period in history.
Years before when the English had colonised North America, the colonies drove on left following the English customs. After independence from the British, they moved to right hand driving. Right hand driving law was passed for the drivers first in Pennsylvania in 1792 and then later in New York in 1804 and New Jersey in 1813. Canada started right driving only after the Second World War. The power of driving right grew up as most European countries started driving on the right. American cars were designed to be driven on the right. Many countries imported American cars due to their reliability and being economic. As a result of this, those countries that imported American cars had to maintain right hand driving because of the design.
Why the British Drive on the Left?
Great Britain also considered changing to right hand driving in the 1960s, but taking into account the expenses to change everything which would cost billions of pounds, the then Government used its power to stop Britain from going to right hand driving. Today only four European countries drive left, while the rest drive right.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.